Chicago election worker who staffed March primary dies after contracting COVID-19

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An election worker who staffed a polling location during Illinois' primary in March has died of coronavirus, the Chicago Board of Elections said Monday.

The victim staffed the Zion Hill Baptist Church polling location located at 1460 West 78th Street and later tested positive for COVID-19. Board officials said he was a city worker who took the day off to work the election.

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The board was notified that some poll workers and voters who were asymptomatic later became ill and tested positive for COVID-19.

Letters have been sent out to poll workers, field investigators, polling place proprietors and election-day voters for precincts where the board received a report that someone there contracted COVID-19 in the weeks after the primary.

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"Although the Board took every precaution possible by supplying poll workers with hand sanitizers, gloves, and instructions for wiping down the equipment, the fact remains that an individual who has now tested positive was likely present while you were voting," Executive Director, Lance Gough wrote in the letter.

Letters have already been sent to Precincts 8, 27 and 28 of Ward 28 - Andrew Jackson School, 1340 W Harrison and Precinct 44 of Ward 8 - The Montclare, 1200 E 78th St.

Letters will be sent to Precincts 29 and 32 of Ward 29 and Precincts 6 and 29 of Ward 38 - Dever School, 3435 N. Osceola and Precinct 27 of Ward 17 - Zion Hill Baptist Church, 1460 W 78th Street.

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The Illinois primary was held on its scheduled date March 17, even after St. Patrick's Day festivities were cancelled and restaurants shuttered in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.

"The governor of Illinois does not have the constitutional right to shut down the election," Gov. JB Pritzker said during his daily press conference Monday afternoon, adding that the decision to postpone and election date is made by the legislature.
"I couldn't shut it down. We were encouraging people not to go to the polls if they could avoid going to the polls and, indeed, I think that's exactly the same thing that we need to do even more so when we get to the general election," Pritzker said.

The city and state are now taking this as a lesson for the upcoming November election.

"Coming out of this experience, what's very clear to me is, we cannot have a repeat of what happened on March 17," Mayor Lightfoot said. "I'm going to urge the independent Chicago Board of Elections to start working on plans to see that we can really emphasize, both vote by mail and early voting."

The Chicago Department of Public Health said that given the time of the election and the incubation period of the virus, they don't have concerns about new infections.

FULL TEXT OF LETTERS SENT BY CHICAGO BOARD OF ELECTIONS:

Dear Voter,
The Board of Elections has been notified of a confirmed case of COVID-19 by a Poll worker who worked on Election Day, March 17, 2020 at your precinct. We are notifying you because you voted at your assigned precinct that day and may have come into contact with this individual. Although the Board took every precaution possible by supplying poll workers with hand sanitizers, gloves, and instructions for wiping down the equipment, the fact remains that an individual who has now tested positive was likely present while you were voting.

Please follow all protocol that has been set forth by our Federal, State and local agencies if you feel that you may be experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19. If you have tested positive after 17 March 2020, we would greatly appreciate being notified of your situation. Please contact us at 312-269-.

I hope that you remain healthy and safe during these trying times.
Sincerely,
Lance Gough
Executive Director
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